cover image The Art Pack

The Art Pack

Christopher Frayling. Alfred A Knopf Inc, $45 (18pp) ISBN 978-0-679-41419-3

Although written for readers who ``have an active and committed interest in visual art, but not yet a very informed interest,'' this innovative book, which analyzes various concepts using examples from every period of Western art, has insights to offer even those who have studied art history formally. Using sophisticated pop-ups and other three-dimensional devices, the authors show the techniques that go into the creation of a work of art, from color theory to perspective to composition. Thus, art history students who may have been perplexed by descriptions of the theories of art such as the Golden Section dealing with proportion, or Alberti's Renaissance method of rendering perspective, will be enlightened by the various schemes used to explain them here. A few of the contrivances, however, add little (what is the point of the 3-D reproduction of Vermeer's studio that pops up in the first section?). Fitted into the back cover is a pack of postcard-size reproductions of 20 works of art, with a disappointingly shallow audiotape commentary on them. The book's drawbacks are outweighed by the strengths, however. This unique approach to art is so intriguing with its suggestion of inexhaustible treasures that it will be bought by many as gifts for art lovers--and for themselves. Mr. Frayling is a professor of cultural history at the Royal College of Art in London; Ms. Frayling is a painter and teacher; Van der Meer is a British paper engineer and designer. ( Nov. )